Is Australia the Saudi Arabia of the Pacific?

Black coal piles up at a mine entrance near Newcastle, Australia.

Ariel Bogle and Will Oremus over at Slate think so:
Did we mention that Australians’ per-capita carbon emissions are the highest of any major developed country in the world? Welcome to the Saudi Arabia of the South Pacific. No, Australia isn’t a theocracy, and oil isn’t the source of its fossil-fuel riches. But it is the world’s second-largest exporter of coal and third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, and minerals and fuels account for nearly 50 percent of its export revenues. Its per-capita carbon emissions actually exceed those of Saudi Arabia. And its behavior of late is beginning to bear an ugly resemblance to those petro-states whose governments seem to exist chiefly to guarantee the spectacular profits of the fossil-fuel industry.

And they fear the country is going backwards in the fight against climate change.

In the year since they took office, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Liberal-led coalition have already dismantled the country’s key environmental policies. Now they’ve begun systematically ransacking its natural resources. In the process, they’ve transformed Australia from an international innovator on environmental issues into quite possibly the dirtiest country in the developed world. And in a masterful whirl of the spin machine, they’ve managed to upend public debate by painting climate science as superstition and superstition as climate science.

But the authors might have picked the wrong comparison. Even Saudi Arabia has ambitious renewable energy targets.

In an effort to offset the skyrocketing fossil fuel usage and develop new local knowledge-based economies, the Saudi government created the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, or K.A.CARE. This entity was created with the mandate to develop and deploy the Kingdom’s renewable energy goals. In 2011, K.A.CARE announced lofty targets of 54 GW of renewable energy by 2032. Of this, 16 GW will be devoted to photovoltaics, 25 GW to concentrated solar power, and 8 GW of nuclear energy.

The kingdom plans to complete the first five solar plants by the end of next year.

  1. http://Ariel Bogle and Will Oremus
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